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February 28, 2008

Bad Business

In the Journal, an analysis of the anti-business legislation sponsored by Sen. Obama...

Along with Democratic co-sponsors Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin, Mr. Obama introduced the bill in the Senate in August 2007. Recently in Janesville, Wis., he repeated his intention to make it a priority as President: "We will end the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas, and we will give those breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages right here in America."

Mr. Obama's proposal would designate certain companies as "patriot employers" and favor them over other, presumably not so patriotic, businesses.

And I thought we were ushering in an end to divisiveness....

The legislation takes four pages to define "patriotic" companies as those that: "pay at least 60 percent of each employee's health care premiums"; have a position of "neutrality in employee [union] organizing drives"; "maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in the United States relative to the number of full-time workers outside of the United States"; pay a salary to each employee "not less than an amount equal to the federal poverty level"; and provide a pension plan.

In other words, a patriotic employer is one which fulfills the fondest Big Labor agenda, regardless of the competitive implications. The proposal ignores the marketplace reality that businesses hire a work force they can afford to pay and still make money. Coercing companies into raising wages and benefits above market rates may only lead to fewer workers getting hired in the first place.

Worth reading it all. And along that same line, Steve Chapman skewers the Dems misleading anti-NAFTA rhetoric with, you know...facts...

...Tuesday's debate in Cleveland devoted a lot of time to the question: Are you now or have you ever been a supporter of NAFTA? Both candidates denied any complicity, past or present, and both vowed to scrap the treaty if the Mexican government doesn't agree to changes.

Obama makes a special theme of blaming this and other trade agreements for setting off a race to the bottom that destroys American jobs. "In Youngstown, Ohio," he said in a Texas debate, "I've talked to workers who have seen their plants shipped overseas as a consequence of bad trade deals like NAFTA, literally seeing equipment unbolted from the floors of factories and shipped to China."

Why NAFTA would induce a company to move production to China is a puzzle, but you get the idea. His campaign claims a million jobs have vanished because of the deal. That sounds devastating, but over the last 14 years, the American economy has added a net total of 25 million jobs—some of them, incidentally, attributable to expanded trade with Mexico. When NAFTA took effect in 1994, the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. Today it's 4.9 percent.

But maybe all the jobs we lost were good ones and all the new ones are minimum-wage positions sweeping out abandoned factories? Actually, no. According to data compiled by Harvard economist Robert Z. Lawrence, the average blue-collar worker's wages and benefits, adjusted for inflation, have risen by 11 percent under NAFTA. Instead of driving pay scales down, it appears to have pulled them up.

Manufacturing employment has declined, but not because we're producing less: Manufacturing output has not only expanded, but has expanded far faster than it did in the decade before NAFTA. The problem is that as productivity rises, we can make more stuff with fewer people. That's not a bad thing. In fact, it's essentially the definition of economic progress.

We're not the only country facing that phenomenon. China makes everything these days, right? But between 1995 and 2002, it lost 15 million manufacturing jobs.

This dishonest Democratic electioneering ignores the fact that in the first 10 years after NAFTA was passed, our trade with Mexico nearly tripled, from $81 billion to $232 billion. To hear these two dueling protectionists tell it, no workers in the United States drew a paycheck from any of that extra $150 billion of corporate revenue. They simply won't admit that great wealth was created on both sides of the border by NAFTA. (In fact, they are loath to admit that wealth is "created" by entrepreneurship at all, let alone that it is a good thing.)

The following items are from a summary of a CATO analysis of the effects of the expansion of trade in the last decade:

* Trade has had no discernible, negative effect on the number of jobs in the U.S. economy. Our economy today is at full employment, with 16.5 million more people working than a decade ago.

* Trade accounts for only about 3 percent of dislocated workers.Technology and other domestic factors displace far more workers than does trade.

* Average real compensation per hour paid to American workers, which includes benefits as well as wages, has increased by 22 percent in the past decade.

* Median household income in the United States is 6 percent higher in real dollars than it was a decade ago at a comparable point in the previous business cycle. Middle-class households have been moving up the income ladder, not down.

* The net loss of 3.3 million manufacturing jobs in the past decade has been overwhelmed by a net gain of 11.6 million jobs in sectors where the average wage is higher than in manufacturing. Two-thirds of the net new jobs created since 1997 are in sectors where workers earn more than in manufacturing.

* The median net worth of U.S. households jumped by almost one-third between 1995 and 2004, from $70,800 to $93,100.

So far Obama has been a moving target with his anti-business positions. At times serious, as in the proposed legislation referenced in the WSJ piece above, and at other times, if you look closely, he's signaling that he is not to be taken seriously, it's just campaign demagoguery.

The anti-NAFTA stuff he's peddling in Ohio and elsewhere as a way to exploit people's anxiety about some real manufacturing job losses is especially dishonest and cynical, since as even the New York Times notices, he has no real intention of trying to reverse the agreement:

...when you read this [Clinton] plan, or Mr. Obama’s trade agenda, you discover none of it is particularly radical. Neither candidate calls for a repeal of Nafta, or anything close to it. Both instead want to tinker with the bureaucratic innards of the agreement. They want stronger “labor and environmental standards” and better “enforcement mechanisms.”

It’s a bit of an odd situation. They call the country’s trade policy a disaster, and yet their plan to fix it starts with, um, cracking down on Mexican pollution.

The question this raises is what Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton would really do about Ohio’s troubles if one of them became president — and whether it would make a difference.

These are the same kinds of (Big Labor dictated) environmental and labor standards that Dems used to hold up recent trade accords with some of our South American allies. We make no friends among our potential trading partners around the world when arrogant "gringo nannies" insinuate themselves into the sovereign internal affairs of nations after trade deals have already been negotiated, in order to lecture them and demand they restructure their internal labor standards and improve their environmental practices before we'll deign to sell them our products.

I guess that's part of the new diplomacy we could expect as a regular diet if we vote these people into power.



February 27, 2008

Climate Change Is Redundant - Part XLIV

Way cool. Some global warmists had been getting uneasy with data showing no measurable warming since the year 2000, and now temperature monitors are showing significant global cooling in the past year. This should send them into a panic to hurry up and degrade the economies of the developed countries before it's too late.

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

More from the National Post:

Last month, Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, shrugged off manmade climate change as "a drop in the bucket." Showing that solar activity has entered an inactive phase, Prof. Sorokhtin advised people to "stock up on fur coats."

He is not alone. Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.

The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased.

A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Turns out the sun has a lot to do with the warming of the earth.

Then there's this from a commenter at a post I linked yesterday at QandO:

According to NASA, each year 168 billion metric tons (BMT) of CO2 are deposited in the atmosphere. 100 BMT come from the oceans, 30 BMT from decaying biomass, another 30 BMT from respiration. 8 BMT are man made. Of that amount, only 6 BMT are as the result of burning fossil fuels. If we stopped using all fossil fuels, CO2 emissions would only decline by 3.6%.

In terms of the green house effect, water vapor is by far the most abundant and most effective green house gas - a thousand times more effective than CO2.

I had been familiar with the idea that we are just tinkering around the edges of the greenhouse gas issue, at best only affecting some 3% of the total. And if I'm reading right, breathing by humans and other animals on the planet produces about ten times the C02 produced by the burning of all fossil fuels. I have long wondered why we are seriously contemplating trashing our economies in an attempt to shave some fraction off of the 3% of total greenhouse gases represented by all fossil fuel use, in the conceit that we can/should impact global temperature. As it stands today, cold-related deaths far outnumber heat-related ones, the implication being that global warming may be a net life-saver, in the short run at least.

Does this mean the debate is not over?

Ethanol Mandates

There's a detailed post and a spirited comments thread on the issue of ethanol mandates and their unintended consequences over at at QandO. (via Coyote Blog) One of many points made by McQ is that the burning to clear land in order to grow more corn is putting more emissions into the air in one year than we can save by using the resulting ethanol for decades. Doubling of prices for wheat, corn and soybeans over the last two years isn't solely attributable to worldwide biofuels mandates (increasing worldwide demand for meat is a big factor too) but they are a significant factor.

A couple of related posts at EU Referendum on how the Europeans are dealing with their biofuels commitments and with the crisis in food price increases are worth a look. (EU Referendum is always worth a look.)

Shady Deal

The Times Online is paying attention to a story their U.S. counterparts have so far largely ignored.

A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.

The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

Hot Air has more. Congratulations, by the way, to Ed Morrissey, who joins Michelle Malkin's group at Hot Air, leaving his fine blog Captains Quarters for new challenges. CQ has been a daily stop for me for years. Regardless of what the breaking story of the day was, readers could be assured an informative, level-headed, thoughtful take on it from Captain Ed. Here's wishing him all the best.

February 26, 2008

NYT - Brain Cocoa

Thoughts on the New York Times, 2008 version, and the lessons of the McCain article.

Denis Boyles - NRO

Sunday, the paper’s “public editor,” Clark Hoyt, weighed in on the controversy. I say “weighed” but his tread was positively catlike. Another missed opportunity, I suppose. But let me help. Here’s what the paper’s public editor didn’t say, but should have: “Get a grip! The function of the Times is not to print ‘news.’ It’s to provide like-minded readers with a comforting view of the world.”

If its purpose is to print “all the news,” then the Times, like all newspapers, is an old-fashioned product made obsolete by advances in technology. Therefore, what constitutes “news” at the Times is not only a moving target, it’s a series of different targets, depending on who the paper wants to take knock off. But that kind of bias surprises no one: The litany of “I-told-you-so” comments that follow every one of these gaffes by the Times is pointless. The Times no longer pretends to offer a chronicle of the day’s events. Its business has changed: It now provides brain cocoa for its dwindling band of readers by offering a daily validation of the assumptions shared by most of them. In doing so, of course, it also alienates more than half its potential market. If that’s a business plan, it’s a bad one (if the spiraling value of NYT stock is any indication — and of course it is). The most recent announcement of newsroom layoffs won’t be the last.

Steve Boriss - The Future of News

Smear-gate represents a milestone — a major new advance in the power of New Media over the previous high-water mark, “Rathergate.” Back then, bloggers and other alternative media successfully second-guessed the objectivity of a story on journalism’s own terms — factual accuracy in a story on President Bush’s military service — and it cost Dan Rather his job. This time, they second-guessed a story based on the public’s terms — whether it is truly objective given the selection of the news story and angle. For once, the misdirection was noticed and the NY Times was caught in the act. It’s a significant new phase in the disappearing act known as Modern Journalism.

Click and read both.

Hey Larry....Later

So now I find out there's a blog called "Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots", and it's too late to enjoy it. In operation for only four months or so, the author is taking suggestions on what direction to take, in light of the big trade.

In a related development, a local sports talk show took calls today to help name the group of new Cavalier players (Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West), and a popular choice was "The I Can't Believe We Got These Guys For Larry Hughes Four." Not a tear shed in the whole town, I don't think.

February 25, 2008

Four Buck Notes

---Check out ESPN's flattering piece on OSU defensive end Vernon Gholston as he impresses scouts at the NFL combine. I don't think he'll get past the Jets or the Patriots in the first seven picks of the draft.

---Thad Matta's OSU basketball team may have seen their NCAA Tournament hopes go down the drain today, when they collapsed down the stretch and fell to Wisconsin 58-52.

---The upside of the basketball game story was that prized football recruit, QB Terrelle Pryor was in attendance. He was seen sitting with J.B. Shugarts and Mike Brewster, two of the offensive linemen who are already a part of the Buckeyes 2008 recruiting class, and who have established friendships with Pryor during the recruiting process. Pryor was along for the ride with his Jeanette H.S. teammate who was in Columbus for Junior Day. Pryor who delayed his decision on national signing day Feb. 6, is all but delivered to the Bucks, as sources say his father is now "100% on board" with the situation at Ohio State. A promised official visit to Penn State will probably take place this weekend, and shortly thereafter Pryor will announce for OSU.

---One of the posters at BuckeyeSports.com linked to the YouTube video of the ugly 1972 mugging in the Ohio State-Minnesota basketball game. It had been years since I had seen this, and it doesn't get any less ugly with the passage of time. It has been called a brawl, but that usually implies fighting by both sides. As you'll see, there isn't much of any swinging by OSU players.

For those who don't remember, or have never seen it, the action began with 36 seconds to go in the game and the Buckeyes wrapping up a huge upset victory over the Gophers, when Corky Taylor fouled Buckeye center Luke Witte hard as he went for a dunk, knocking him to the floor. A referee sensing Taylor might not be finished stands between Taylor and Witte for a moment, until Taylor goes to help Witte up. What follows is perhaps the dirtiest scene ever in college basketball.

A Buckeye player confronts Taylor after he puts Witte back down with a knee to the groin, and he is cold-cocked by Gopher (and longtime Cav) Jim Brewer and another Minnesota player, while Ron Behagen proceeds to stomp on the writhing Witte's head while he's lying in pain. Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is on that Gophers team, and gets his licks in, reportedly smashing OSU's Mark Wagar's head on the floor while several Minnesota fans held him down. Here's a look at Luke Witte's face after the beating. Three Buckeye players were hospitalized. Minnesota won the conference in spite of losing Behagen and Taylor for the season to suspensions.

Gopher Coach Bill Musselman has been blamed for the incident by many observers over the years for having his players and the fans whipped into a frenzy for the big game. His reported motto, ""Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat", seems to have helped fuel the outburst. And as bad as it is, the video doesn't even show much of what went on, including Minnesota fans storming the court to join the beating that was in progress. It took Ohio State basketball years to recover. This rivals Kermit Washington's roundhouse right to the face of Rudy Tomjanovich as the worst thing I've ever seen happen on a basketball court.

I guess you could say the story has kind of a happy ending.

February 24, 2008

More Bottom Line

The Boris Nemtsov white paper, Putin: The Bottom Line continues, via La Russophobe. Today Part V, with links to the previous segments. Here's the intro:

Flouting the Constitution

By refraining from putting himself up for a third term as president, Putin is pretending that he is keen to observe the Russian Constitution. In reality, however, its main provisions were all trampled into the dust long ago. The Russian Constitution has to all intents and purposes ceased to mean anything.

First and foremost, Russia is no longer either a democratic, or a federative, or a law-governed state as per Article 1 of the document.

Russia is no longer a democracy. Putin has deprived Russians of freedom of speech and free access to information. We are talking here of the imposition of censorship on practically all politically significant media – federal television channels, wide circulation newspapers, and the most visited internet sites. Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of thought and speech, the right freely to seek, get, transfer, produce and disseminate information by any lawful means. However, the state has seized control of the influential mass media, closed down the independent television channels, introduced shameful blacklists of people who are not deemed suitable and thus not allowed to appear on television, and made it impossible for citizens to get hold of truthful information about what is happening in the country and in the world. People are engulfed from morning until night by a wave of lying propaganda and panegyrics to the authorities that has already caused a gross warping of public opinion. Many seriously believe that without “our dear master Putin” the country will come to an end, even though just nine years ago no one had ever heard of the man. People support “Putin’s plan” although they have no idea what it consists of. Confrontational thinking and hatred of heterodoxy and of “enemies” are being promoted.

February 22, 2008

Symbol Chasers


I saw this quote online from a Native American comedian, and thought it was kind of a crude riff on my hometown, even as old and shopworn as the arguments against the local baseball team's symbols have become.

The Cleveland Indians are going to change their name. They don't want to be known as a team that perpetuates racial stereotypes. From now on they're just going to be called the Indians." - Native Comedian Vaughn Eaglebear

I get it. Cleveland is a racist city because they harbor a team named the Indians. So anything carrying the name Cleveland is associated with offensive stereotype perpetuation. Funny stuff, Mr. Eaglebear. As a Clevelander I'm on the verge of being offended here. Oh, wait...that's the joke!. As a Clevelander, and as such an abettor of the great racial injustice that is the baseball team's nickname, I deserve to know how it feels to be demeaned. (Who said we were thin-skinned in this town?)

I grew up with the Tribe and Chief Wahoo, and have never felt like the team nickname or logo were messages of hate and derision directed toward Native Americans, or a still-kicking vestige of their oppression at the hands of the white man. I thought they were a nickname and logo for a baseball team, wielding the usual social impact accorded sports team names and logos. But what do I know? Lots of people live in a veritable froth over these symbols for years on end.

There are obviously many sincere arguments by thoughtful people (it's a curse) who view the name and logo of this baseball team as insulting racist symbols, and it is not my intent to ridicule their genuine discomfort with them. I share some of that discomfort. But if the nickname and the Chief Wahoo logo were eliminated tomorrow, how would any of the real social problems faced by Native Americans be addressed? Those who rail and flail against symbols not only find that any success they have is necessarily just symbolic, but that they are battling a symptom, not the ailment.

It follows that a person concerned with the actual lives of Native Americans might well be engaged in some practical enterprise on their behalf. I'm wary of the loud, indignant symbol chasers, whether they be chasing Ten Commandments displays, Confederate flags, or ice cream cup labels. Since actual victims of these symbols are tough to identify let alone "help", one looks to the needs of the symbol chasers themselves for an explanation.

It is argued that the Wahoo cartoon image is internalized by young people, and so shapes their views of real Native Americans. They might just as plausibly argue that watching Yogi Bear cartoons makes young people think real bears walk upright, speak English, and conspire to steal picnic baskets from tourists. Somehow that doesn't happen....because they are cartoons, and kids get it. They also get guidance from parents, teachers, friends and life experience in differentiating caricature and fantasy from reality.

Like most boomers, I was exposed as a kid to both positive and negative stereotypes and myths about Native Americans; in books, TV dramas, cartoons and cowboy movies mostly. Today's kids can still catch some of those shows and movies on cable. What kinds of exposures really shape our views of Native Americans in the absence of day-to-day personal contact with them? In the grand scheme of things, what is the impact on kids of cartoon images on baseball caps? Enough to stigmatize a whole city, apparently.

There's no end to the evidence of racism that can be discerned from Chief Wahoo by people who are looking hard enough for it. One outraged critic of the logo said of the Chief..."he looks like he just drank a bottle of Ripple from a brown paper bag!" Remind me....who are the ones perpetuating negative stereotypes again? (Was it the smile or the red nose that gave it away?)

Now Indians team management seems to be caving in, however gradually, to the noisemakers. In recent years, they have introduced a second logo, the uninspired script "I", which is now on the caps of the alternate home uniform, and is interspersed with the Wahoo on the team home page background. If this is not a first step toward the eventual elimination of Chief Wahoo, why is it being done? Which other teams have two logos?

All of this means it's just a matter of time until Chief Wahoo is tossed onto the trash heap. And the symbol chasers will cheer, and do media interviews. And the impact on the day-to-day lives of Native Americans will be zilch. But won't the symbol chasers feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Thousands of baseball fans who don't hold a shred of racism in their hearts will be outraged when management finally drops the beloved symbols of their beloved team. They will be offended, because that symbol means something entirely different to them...as it always has. But any offense they take at the removal of the symbol of their memories, and their loyalties, and their childhoods, and their heroes, doesn't count for as much as the offenses of some others on the grievance scoreboard.

And if that's the eventuality, maybe we will have gotten those various offenses prioritized correctly. And I'm OK with that...as long as the preening symbol chasers don't pretend they did something for someone besides themselves.

Preview of McCarthy Book

Commentary has a preview of Andrew C. McCarthy's upcoming book, an excerpt titled "When Jihad Came to America", the story of the "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman, who provided the inspiration if not the order to assassinate Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990, and led the New York cell of jihadists that eventually bombed the World Trade Center in 1993.

I was delighted to hear a couple months ago that McCarthy was preparing to release his own memoir of the events of the 90's , and I pre-ordered it right away. McCarthy was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the SDNY, and along with Patrick Fitzgerald, prosecuted Rahman, and Kahane's assassin, Sayyid Nosair and others in the "Day of Terror' trial in 1994-1995.

I have a great deal of respect for McCarthy, and I'll be particularly interested to read his treatment of the role of Ali Mohamed in the cases he prosecuted, and his impressions of this most interesting player in the "path to 9/11."

Mohamed was, at various times, an Egyptian soldier, a U.S. citizen, a committed jihadist, a U.S. Army sergeant, the head of security for Osama bin Laden, a Special Forces trainer at Ft. Bragg, a plotter in the 1998 African Embassy bombings, a Silicon Valley businessman, a CIA asset, a trusted member of bin Laden's inner circle, and an FBI informant.

While still active in the U.S. Army, Ali Mohamed was spending weekends off from Ft. Bragg, in upstate New York helping to train the team of terrorists that eventually bombed the WTC in 1993.

Mohammed was finally convicted for his role in the African Embassy bombings, and was said to have pleaded guilty, but no record has been made public of his sentencing, and his current whereabouts, either deep in the federal prison system... or not, is unknown, at least to us regular citizen types. And while I'm sure McCarthy is limited by professional ethics and possible national security issues in what he can reveal in the book, I do hope he can shed some light on this elusive character.

Was Ali Mohamed always a committed jihadist, loyal forever to bin Laden, and a traitor to the Army and to his United States citizenship? Or was he perhaps the deepest-ever U.S. intelligence asset infiltrated into the inner circle of bin Laden's organization? Or was he, at one time or another, both?

Is Ali Mohamed rotting in a federal prison for providing photographs and logistics for the 1998 African Embassy bombings, or getting somewhat better treatment as an ongoing source of information on the jihad for the benefit of U.S. intelligence? Were the documents found in the apartment of Rabbi Kahane' s assassin, and traceable to Ft. Bragg, stolen and supplied to the murderers by Ali Mohamed?

Why did the 9/11 Commission not want to go near the story of Ali Mohamed? And how has a story this compelling and bizarre managed to stay beneath the radar in the years since 9/11?

Just a few of the questions I'm hoping "Willful Blindness" may answer for us. Can't wait.


Wizblog 3/8/07

Ali Mohamed Timeline (pdf)
(Peter Lance has published an exhaustive account of the Ali Mohamed story. This timeline linked above is included in his book "Triple Cross.")

Ali Mohamed timeline - Cooperative Research

The Ali Mohamed FBI Bungle

February 21, 2008

Pluto on C.C. - LBJ On Fire

Terry Pluto's "Open Letter to C.C. Sabathia". Terry says there's no way Sabathia gets away from the contract issue by refusing to negotiate during the season. It's going to be there all year long anyway.

We are used to this tango here in Cleveland. The player says he wants to stay, but usually doesn't. I think C.C.'s many statements about his desire to continue his career here have been sincere, but I also think he dreams of getting four AB's a game, and wants to explore those (NL) options eight months from now.

After cutting off negotiations at the start of Spring Training, he now allows that, if the team and his agents want to talk during the season, he doesn't object...just don't let him hear about it. Mum's the word, C.C.


Good line for Lebron tonight - 31 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists...and it puts him in some select company. He becomes just the second player ever to have two sets of back-to-back triple doubles in the same season. The other was some guy named Magic Johnson, in 1987-88. That's not just doing it in consecutive games, but on consecutive days, all the more impressive. Whether or not he wins the MVP, there's a growing consensus these days on who is the best player in the NBA.

UPDATE 2/21: Oops: LeBron was not the second ever to accomplish the two sets of back-to-back triple doubles, as I misstated above....just the first to do it since Magic Johnson 20 years ago. This should have been a no-brainer for me since, as a colleague reminded me today, Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double for an entire season in 1961-62.

One Man's Terrorist.......

From the Jerusalem Post, via David Frum, "The Correction of the Day "

In an uncommon act of journalistic contrition, the BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as "great national leaders."

The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The Associated Press's former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawkesley in a BBC World report last Thursday, as "an outrage" and "beyond belief."

It's all good.

February 19, 2008

Olbie Overkill?

Here's an updated and and revised version of the Hypocrisy-on-Stilts-of-Keith-Olberman video, (via OW, via Brian at the new-look Bearing Drift Ohio blog.)

If you haven't seen it, you really should watch the original Olbie apology YouTube from Olberman Watch, before clicking below.

I promise...no more.

Will someone please tell me why K. O. doesn't have an entry at Dickipedia yet?

February 18, 2008

Now More Than Never

More interesting to me than the Obama plagiarism flap today was the speech given by Michelle Obama. Drudge has taken down his headline on this story within the last hour or so, and removed it from the page. Wonder why. Here's the attention-grabber:

"What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.

and then, by way of explanation...

And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud."

I do so hope Michelle Obama comes to regret that first turn of phrase, and then publicly clarifies and qualifies it. Because surely Michelle Obama's alienation from her country's ideals cannot really be so great that she can say the United States has done nothing in the last 25 years of which she can be proud. Just recently, tsunami relief, Katrina volunteerism, Africa foreign aid and relief work, and rescuing Kuwait and Kosovo from dictators come to mind....Olympic champions?...Nobel Prizes?...Harvard?....Oprah?.... Nothing?

An American success story and an achiever in her own right, this can't be a woman who believes that the American dream is unachievable. You wouldn't think. She did say in her adult lifetime. This must allow for the false pride from the ceremonial patriotism she was made to recite in her youth. But since she went to Princeton and Harvard Law and became a successful hospital executive and university official, the only view she has had of America has been its ugly side. Really?

As much as I'd like to give her a mulligan on an unfortunate slip, unfortunately, it did seem scripted to come out just that way. And so, after having never once felt proud of her country, the first occasion for her pride in country is what? "People are hungry for change." She has seen "people who are hungry to be united around some basic common issues." How convenient that turned out to be as a tie-in to the theme of the campaign!

And she has found people around the country who, like her, feel desperate, frustrated and alone, because the country isn't going in "that direction." (for the newbie, that's the direction of change we can believe in.) All of which makes her proud of her country...for the first time ever.

Sorry, Michelle, but it sounds contrived. It doesn't work for me. And if it's true, it's sad and pathetic.

UPDATE 2/18:

J-Pod's reaction.

Lots of comments pro and con at this boston.com blog

February 17, 2008

Nemtsov on Putin

Former Deputy Prime Minister and current Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov has made available Part One of his essay on the state of Russia and the results of the Putin regime, "Putin: The Bottom Line". Translated by, and available via La Russophobe. It's an interesting read. Brave man.

McCarthy on FISA

House Democrats deserve to pay a political price for their irresponsibility, given leadership's priority of grandstanding with Roger Clemens rather than bothering themselves with the expiring anti-terrorism legislation. By going on vacation as the PAA expired, they have successfully denied George Bush a legislative victory, and at the same time cost their own country valuable intelligence capability. It's hard to imagine the Democrats giving the voters a better example of their lack of seriousness in matters of national security.

Andrew C. McCarthy is in 'must-read' territory with this piece on FISA, along with his earlier look at the Senate bill.

February 16, 2008

Recommended 2/16

Debra Burlingame revisits the 1999 pardons of 16 FALN terrorists by Bill Clinton, which served little purpose beyond improving electoral prospects for Hillary. I think it's healthy to give ourselves periodic reminders of their track record.

Here's an early review from the Democracy Project of the upcoming Frontline show on the controversial events at Haditha.

Don't miss Thomas Joscelyn's detailed report of Imad Mugniyah's connections to Osama bin Laden, and evidence of the possible roles of Iran and Mugniyah in the 9/11 attacks.

On the Obama trail, a weird string of fainting incidents at Obama appearances; one erstwhile devotee is breaking up with Barack, and Mark Steyn hears Muzak.

Dr. Sanity diagnoses Islam's Vicious Misogyny.

A post by Peter Wehner at Contentions highlights the new report on improved conditions in Iraq by Anthony Cordesman of CSIS. Then there's this encouraging report from Baghdad.

Window on Russia

I spent some time on La Russophobe this afternoon, and while much of the blog's content, on the governance, the civic life and the economy of today's Russia under Putin is at times shocking and depressing, the blog itself is a pretty impressive resource. To say it is anti-Putin is to define its raison d'être.

One of the weekend posts is a video titled "Russia, Perishing", made in 2006 by a journalist named Marcel Theroux for British TV, which documents some of the many and serious social pathologies plaguing modern Russia, from AIDS to alcoholism to apathy.

Even as Putin crushes political opposition and dissent, he is still credited by many people with a revival of the Russian economy. But a Financial Times article linked here demonstrates that even that credit is misplaced. Other entries deal with systemic official corruption and the torture colonies that have been revived under Putin. Like a bad wreck, it's hard to look away, but one focus of this blog also appears to be building and promoting the political opposition to the Putin government. One hopes they're watching what they eat.

February 15, 2008

Not Good

From The DiaTribe, a Cleveland Indians blog by Paul Cousineau:

...no sooner had the Countdown to Spring Training clock hit zero than the day was ruined as C.C. Sabathia, through his website (who knew that C.C. had a website?), declared that he and his agents are cutting off negotiations with the Indians now that the team is in Spring Training. C.C.’s statement claims that he and his agents will re-visit an extension with the Indians after the season, but let’s call this what it is – a statement that C.C. will not be a member of the Indians past this year.

The declaration that he hopes to reach something with the Indians after the season rings hollow as Sabathia will be a Free Agent at that point, capable of fielding offers from any team. One wouldn’t think that the Indians (after the season) are going to suddenly and remarkably determine that they should offer any more than they have on the table at this point in the negotiating process that has been halted by C.C.’s representation.


Alas, it seems as if C.C. and his agents have decided that the Indians’ offer (allegedly in line with recent contracts meted out to Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano, and Jake Peavy) was either too light in terms of years or dollars and he will begin his swan song with the club. Make no mistake, no amount of cheering for him or begging him to stay will have any more effect than it did on Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez as C.C. has unquestionably made his statement that 2008 will be his final year with the Indians.

I guess that means we'll have to win it all this year.

Tribe fans will want to read the whole Spring Training preview.

February 14, 2008

Recommended 2/14

What do young men want? Kay Hymowitz says "today's single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood." Check out her her look at the culture of the SYM in America: "Child-Man in the Promised Land"

Is time running out on the anti-capitalists parading as as global warmists? Power Line links an IDB article citing a study predicting a coming period of "solar hibernation", which is likely to lead to a profound global cooling. Who knew the sun had a lot to do with the warming of the earth?

Syed Soharwardy may be withdrawing his complaint to the Canadian human rights commission against Ezra Levant. The full account is at Levant's blog. The reason appears to be that Soharwardy is taking a beating in the court of public opinion. See also Ace.

In the New York Times "First Chapters" series, read the opening pages of Shelby Steele's "A Bound Man", on Barack Obama.

Coverage of he assassination of the terrorist mass muderer Imad Mughniyeh at PJM, Belmont Club, and at the Counterterrorism Blog, here, here, and here.

Dick Cavett remembering Bobby Fisher, including some old video of a Fisher appearance on Cavett's show. (via Pejman). More on Fisher from chronicle.com

February 13, 2008

Who Said That?

Which collectivist said that? Take the quiz.

(via Dr. Sanity)

February 12, 2008

Saluting Spielberg

It's not like he's the reigning world record holder in the pole vault or anything, but Steven Spielberg's refusal to take part in the Beijing Olympics is admirable.

Steven Spielberg has decided not to participate in this summer's Beijing Olympic Games as an artistic adviser, citing China's lack of progress in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.


"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," Spielberg said. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."


"Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing suffering there," Spielberg said in his statement. "China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change."

More imagery like this would be welcome too.

UPDATE 2/13: I'm trying to give Spielberg credit where it is due, but I did see and hear the point well made today by both Laura Ingraham and James Taranto that the Chinese regime's support for the government of Sudan is, as Ingraham said, the cherry on top of the human rights violation sundae for the PRC, yet it took this one politically correct cause to squeeze a condemnation of the Chinese out of Spielberg. From the brutal persecution and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens without charge or trial for practicing an exercise and meditation regimen, to harvesting human organs from executed prisoners for sale to foreigners (and the strong evidence of considerable overlap between those two groups), there are plenty of reasons to take a principled stand against the miserable human rights record of the PRC without looking beyond its own borders. Point made, I guess.

February 11, 2008

Tom Lantos Remembrance

I'm on the mailing list for The Israel Project, and I thought Monday's email message from the organization's founder, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, was worth reproducing in full:

It was with deep sadness that I learned about the death of Congressman Tom Lantos.

For so many reasons, Rep. Tom Lantos was an inspiration to millions of people across the globe. I knew Congressman Lantos for more than two decades and was inspired by him to start The Israel Project. As one of the most important supporters of Israel in Congress, he instilled in me the importance of educating the public about the real Israel so that a strong U.S. - Israel relationship can continue to flourish. He helped The Israel Project with our first ideas for TV ads and introduced me to some of our first donors. His commitment to Israel and American security meant so much to so many people and institutions around the globe. He will be deeply missed.

As someone of Hungarian origin, who’s father suffered much during the Holocaust, I am among multitudes who are the poorer for the absence of a strong voice of reminder. We have all benefited from his commitment to educating the world about the Holocaust so it will never happen again. His commitment to human rights and religious freedom for all people have left a mark on our world.

On behalf of our board of directors and staff, our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Founder and President
The Israel Project

On Spreading Misery Equally

Bernard Chapin's review of the latest book by City Journal Editor Brian C. Anderson, "Democratic Capitalism and its Discontents", does what it's supposed to do. Compel you to click on the Amazon link and "Proceed to Checkout." Here's a meaty sample:

He begins by linking the assault on capitalism with the suicide of our culture. Statists are keen to forget that communism and National Socialism were responsible for over 125 million deaths during the last century. The antidote for the totalitarianism endemic to these movements, democratic capitalism, is well-known and readily available to most western nations. It systematically reverses the manmade afflictions of fascism wherever it is introduced, yet only a precious plurality appear cognizant of its worth.

At the root of the populist disdain for economic freedom is the cult of equality. This same cult of equality is what forms the basis of the progressive attachment to socialism. Unfortunately, everyone having the same outcome in life is not possible within a capitalistic framework. Any society in which man selects his own path features inherent disparities among citizens because “not all people are equally gifted, equally nurtured, equally hardworking, equally lucky.” This observation is non-remarkable to those of us who accept that there is such a thing as human nature.

Utopians slander this eventuality (known as reality) as being stone-hearted and repugnant. They regard our species to be malleable and one that possesses unlimited promise—provided that a route can be hewn through those who regard history as a discipline that has something to say about the present. Like good, evil, and the poor, our utopians will always be with us. All one has to do is turn on the television in order to see them. Usually, they clamor for change while urging us to vote “for our dreams and not our fears” which, all too often, necessitates our being seduced by fantastic proposals that promise little more than to illuminate that the laws of unintended consequence are timeless.


Ultimately, the anti-capitalist mindset consistently manages to perplex. Who but a true believer would question that without businesses, producers, and entrepreneurs the welfare state would cease to exist forever? Yes, without capitalism equality is possible, but it would come at the cost of all of us having nothing. This is particularly true in regards to those presumptive knights that infest the federocracy’s corridors of power. If not for those individual Americans who possess courage, tolerance for risk, and creativity no bureaucrat could dispose of paper, other people’s careers, and resources for very long [or at least, do so in the comfort of a heated building].

"Perplexed" is a good word for it. I have never understood the statists' fierce antipathy to the private sector, even as many of them have opted out of it for whatever reason. Surely they see that it is the engine generating the sustenance for their beloved State, and that its health is necessary for government to be sustainable. That cult of equality is what drives Democratic candidates (Edwards and Hillary being the best recent examples) to insist that government "needs to do more about income inequality." Really? Why? How?

Those aren't the only questions they should be made to answer for the voters; What exactly is the endgame here anyway....brain surgeons and busboys making the same salary? What societies in history have accomplished this kind of government-enforced economic levelling with positive results? What greater principle is being served by trying to equalize life outcomes through government action?

After all, it's not "income insufficiency" they're saying must be addressed. No conservative I know denies the moral imperative for a societal 'safety net' for those who need it. The statists' problem is that some people just have more, and they believe it is a worthwhile government goal to engineer and steer society away from its inevitable destination. What happened to celebrating the diversity?

Two Faces of Keith

Via IP, and Olberman Watch, video of an appalled Keith Olberman, weighing in on behalf of MSNBC to register his profound disgust with the use of the term "pimping" by his otherwise unassailable colleague, David Shuster. No doubt Keith felt Shuster's supension was warranted.

As demonstrated in an earlier post, an appropriate use of the term "pimping out" in reference to the Clintons is to describe what they did with the Lincoln Bedroom in the 90's.

An Old Hand

In the late Saturday-early Sunday slow news period, after losing four more states to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton dismissed her campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, replacing her with Maggie Williams.

As Michelle Malkin reports, and as those of us who were both old enough and paying attention three elections ago well remember, Maggie Williams was a key figure in the scandal over the illegal campaign fund-raising practices of the Clintons in the 1996 campaign that came to be known as Chinagate.

Williams, as Mrs. Clinton's top aide, was on the receiving end of checks from donors such as Johnny Chung, including one for $50,000 that she accepted in the First Lady's office in the White House. These donations, many of which were returned after they became public due to "insufficient information" regarding their origins, seemed to many observers to violate federal fund-raising statutes, including the one prohibiting party fund-raising on federal government property.

After the fact, Attorney General Reno was able to squeeze these unseemly cash drop operations through loopholes in the law which were, as Time magazine put it "big enough to drive Air Force One, the Lincoln Bedroom, Johnny Chung and most of Gore's telephone logs through." Turns out that Williams and Mrs. Clinton had multiple memory lapses as to the details of the contributions during the subsequent investigation, and guess what...they skated.

More on Johnny Chung, the Taiwanese born businessman who gained astonishing access to the White House, especially the First Lady's office, by contributing $366,000 to the DNC in a two year period. He is memorable for his matter of fact quote about the key to face time at the Clinton White House:

"The White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates.

For Maggie Williams, not having the Lincoln Bedroom or access to the President's weekly radio address to pimp out this time around does put the Clinton campaign at a decided fund-raising disadvantage compared to 1996. But she knows the ropes, and maybe has learned a thing or two from the way they got caught funneling illegal cash into the campaign last time.

February 10, 2008

The Pryor Story

Anyone not interested in where 18-year old football players are planning to attend college need read no further, but the destination of Jeannette, Pa. quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been a subject of interest, since he is rated as the nation's top high school player at any position, and last Wednesday, while the rest of the nation's best sent letters of intent to their colleges of choice, Terrelle Pryor decided not to decide.

Pryor has long been thought to be in the bag for Ohio State, and with good reason. He had established close friendships with several of the members of the Buckeye recruiting class of 2008, roomed with them at the Army All-America Game, and was said to be far enough along in his plans to have decided on his freshman year roommates. Fellow players in San Antonio for the Army game who were asked to speculate about Pryor's plans all said they thought he was already a Buckeye.

In the last few days before the Feb. 6 signing day, when most of the media start to pay attention to college recruiting, Pryor agreed to hold off announcing his commitment so he could appear on the ESPN signing day recruiting special. In the preceding days, his high school coach and others close to Pryor were quoted as saying they thought he would announce for Ohio State, something Ohio State program insiders had known for months, at least to the extent one can ever tell for sure what a 17-year old will do. Suffice to say he had given OSU coaches and future classmates every indication he wanted to be a Buckeye.

All of this is why there was great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in Buckeye Nation Wednesday when his signing day announcement was that he would take some more time to decide, and visit a couple more schools before committing, specifically planning a trip to Penn State. News coverage portrayed a picture of an undecided young man whose commitment to his high school basketball season had limited his availability to make all the college visits he would have liked, because that was the script Pryor and family followed at the press conference. And the basketball situation and the busy schedule narrative is true as far as it goes. But the real story of the events leading to Pryor's signing day non-announcement is a little more complicated than that. And it should be somewhat comforting to Buckeye fans as they wait out the decision.

Pryor has visited Penn State unofficially several times, but the Nittany Lions had been viewed as an also ran in the Pryor stakes, even though the star was a home state product. As recently as a month ago, Penn State was not thought to even be a contender for Pryor as he considered Michigan and the Buckeyes, with Oregon getting his attention as well. Most schools were aware that the young man would probably stay relatively close to home to make it easier for his parents to attend his games. And many others didn't invest the time because the word was he was a done deal for the Bucks.

It's common knowledge in Jeannette that in that in the absence of a strong level of interest from Pryor, the Penn State coaching staff has instead been concentrating their recruiting efforts on his father, visiting him personally at home numerous times in the past several weeks. It appears that dad is now sold on the Nittany Lions as a college destination for his son, and this preference surfaced the day before signing day when Pryor met with his whole family to discuss his college choice.

According to sources close to the OSU program, at that informal meeting, Pryor informed his family that he was planning to attend Ohio State. His father is said to have promoted his preference for Penn State, saying that Terrelle had not given them a fair chance. Pryor was reportedly firm in stating his intention to be a Buckeye, and a heated discussion ensued. Perhaps in part because at 17 he needs his father's signature on his letter of intent, he relented and agreed to delay committing and take an official visit to Penn State, (and since he is extending the time, he may visit Oregon as well) out of respect for his father's wishes and for the home state school. Dad is said to have "no problem" with Ohio State and will go along with Terrelle's final decision.

Long story long, Pryor will probably still become an Ohio State Buckeye in two or three weeks, even as the media folks try to manufacture suspense for their own sake. For a litany of reasons too involved to get into here (Anthony Morelli's tortured four-year career there ought to be enough) Penn State makes no sense for the guy. He also knows that if he comes to Columbus in the Fall, his friends will be waiting for him. It doesn't hurt that in the OSU class of 2008 are three (yes, three) Parade All-American offensive linemen and a Parade All-American wide receiver, part of a recruiting class that is Tressel's best OSU class yet, Pryor or no Pryor. He also knows that Jim Tressel took a dual-threat quarterback who was almost a recruiting afterthought and turned him into the Heisman Trophy winner just two seasons ago. I think he knows what to do. In fact he has known it for quite some time.


A look at the 2008 OSU Football Recruiting Class - Bucknuts.com

Terrelle Pryor highlight video

February 8, 2008

Love of Country....But

The hugely talented James Lileks with the must read blog post of the (yet young) year.

Reassessing the NIE

Intelligence community officials being pressed by Senate Intelligence Committee members are backtracking on their assessments from the latest National Intelligence Estimate, admitting that the phrasing and emphasis of the leaked portions of the NIE made public in December led to conclusions that were misleading if not directly at odds with reality. Let's hope it leads to a national sobering up regarding the intentions of the Iranian regime, and that the damage done by this transparent political stunt isn't irreparable.

Eli Lake in the New York Sun:

WASHINGTON — The director of national intelligence is backing away from his agency's assessment late last year that Iran had halted its nuclear program, saying he wishes he had written the unclassified version of the document in a different manner.

At a hearing yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the intelligence director, Michael McConnell, said, "If I had 'til now to think about it, I probably would change a few things." He later added, "I would change the way we describe the Iranian nuclear program. I would have included that there are the component parts, that the portion of it, maybe the least significant, had halted.


The release of the December 2007 estimate at best delayed American diplomatic efforts to pass a third U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran's uranium enrichment, an activity the mullahs have continued for two years despite warnings from all five permanent members of the security council. The estimate also drew rare rebukes from American allies, including Israel, France, and the United Kingdom who said their intelligence agencies did not concur with the American assessment that Iran had frozen its plan to produce an A-bomb.

The release of the declassified estimate also contradicted Mr. McConnell's own stated policy of keeping intelligence estimates secret. On Tuesday he said that on November 27, when his analysts presented him with the new Iran estimate, he decided he had to make the conclusions public because both he and his predecessor had been on record warning of Iran's nuclear weapons program and the new intelligence in part contradicted that.

With more on the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Kenneth Timmerman writes:

Sen. Kit Bond, the ranking Republican on the committee, chided McConnell for allowing the NIE to be used as a “political football,” and pointed out that the real revelation of the NIE was just the opposite of how it has been portrayed in news accounts at home and abroad.

“The main news of the NIE was the confirmation that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, not that it had halted it temporarily,” he said.

Even the presumed, temporary halt was open to question, Bond added. “The French defense minister said publicly that he believes the program has restarted. Now if our government comes to that assessment, then we have set ourselves up to release another NIE or leak intelligence, because this last one has given us a false sense of security.”

John Bolton, the former undersecretary of state for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, blasted McConnell and the NIE on the morning of the hearing in a sharply-worded oped appearing in The Wall Street Journal.

“Few seriously doubt that the NIE gravely damaged the Bush administration’s diplomatic strategy,” Bolton wrote.

The NIE was driven by policy considerations, not actual intelligence, and put the community’s credibility and impartiality on the line, Bolton argued.

I'm not aware of too many people who have been comforted by any sort of "sense of security" as regards Iran's intentions, since snippets of the latest NIE were selectively leaked (and selectively hyped by a gleeful media). George Bush's political opponents, who profess to prefer sanctions to any military options, have managed to make effective sanctions less likely than ever by playing politics with intelligence. More from Timmerman:

McConnell tried to dismiss Bolton’s comments, then began to seriously back-pedal.

Once he realized that the intelligence community had turned up information that directly contradicted public statements he and his predecessor, John Negroponte, had made about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, McConnell said he was in a bind.

“So now my dilemma was, I could not not make this unclassified,” he said, even though his preference had been to keep the entire 140 page estimate out of the public eye.

Senior Bush administration officials who have read the entire classified NIE have told Newsmax they were “appalled” at the thin sourcing and shoddy analysis.

A former career CIA analyst commented, “I have never seen an intelligence analysis this bad. It is misleading, politicized, and poorly written.”

In a column entitled “Stupid Intelligence on Iran,” the former defense secretary, James Schlesinger, wrote, “Clearly, the key judgments in the NIE were overstated . . . and thus incautiously phrased.”

With the liberal celebratory back-slapping over with, and the President having been handed a political rebuke (national security be damned) it's encouraging that responsible people are publicly admitting that virtually no one actually believes the mullahs have voluntarily ended their drive to achieve nuclear weapons.

In his recent article in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz reprises an earlier piece making the case for a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Both articles are worth considering in light of the increasing sobriety on the matter of Iranian nukes. He recalls the NIE of 2005, which predicted that...

....it was “unlikely... that Iran would be able to make a nuclear weapon....before early-to-mid next decade”—that is, between 2010 and 2015. If that assessment, offered with “moderate confidence,” was correct, Bush would be off the hook, since he would be out of office for two years at the very least by the time the decision on whether or not to order air strikes would have to be made. That being the case, for the remainder of his term he could continue along the carrot-and-stick path, while striving to ratchet up the pressure on Iran with stronger and stronger measures that he could hope against hope might finally do the trick. If he could get these through the Security Council, so much the better; if not, the United States could try to assemble a coalition outside the UN that would be willing to impose really tough sanctions.

But one problem then as ever, was that taking effective action depended on the CIA being right, and as Podhoretz briefly recounts, the CIA's track record is appallingly bad when it comes to the big things:

...only by relying on the accuracy of the 2005 NIE would Bush be able in all good conscience to pass on to his successor the decision of whether or when to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that estimate, as he could hardly help knowing from the CIA’s not exactly brilliant track record, might easily be too optimistic.

To start with the most spectacular recent instance, the CIA had failed to anticipate 9/11. It then turned out to be wrong in 2002 about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, very likely because it was bending over backward to compensate for having been wrong in exactly the opposite direction in 1991, when at the end of the first Gulf war the IAEA discovered that the Iraqi nuclear program was far more advanced than the CIA had estimated.

Podhoretz then turns to an excerpt from Gabriel Schoenfeld to continue the narrative:

The CIA was established in 1947 in large measure to avoid another surprise attack like the one the U.S. had suffered on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. But only three years after its founding, the fledgling agency missed the outbreak of the Korean war. It then failed to understand that the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans if American forces crossed the Yalu river. It missed the outbreak of the Suez war in 1956. In September 1962, the CIA issued an NIE which stated that the “Soviets would not introduce offensive missiles in Cuba”; in short order, the USSR did precisely that. In 1968 it failed to foresee the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. . . . It did not inform Jimmy Carter that the Soviet Union would invade Afghanistan in 1979.

Podhoretz continues

...This is not to mention perhaps the most notorious case of all: the fiasco, known as the Bay of Pigs, produced by the CIA’s wildly misplaced confidence that an invasion of Cuba by the army of exiles it had assembled and trained would set off a popular uprising against the Castro regime.

On Bush’s part, then, deep skepticism was warranted concerning the CIA’s estimate of how much time we had before Iran reached the point of no return.

Sleep tight...the CIA is on the case.

Do read the whole Podhoretz article. He goes on to argue that doing nothing to deter Iran, which is our present course with the military option effectively off the table and the sanctions option thus defanged, virtually assures a nuclear exchange in the not too distant future, with a regime sworn to Israel's destruction and ideologically immune to any "mutually assured destruction" deterrent moving resolutely toward their goal.


U.S. Warns Iran over Nuclear Centrifuges

Correcting the CIA - NY Sun op-ed

McCain's CPAC Speech

Like the man said..."this election is going to be about big things."

Who's Authentic?

With Romney's exit from the campaign today, James Taranto had some thoughts on authenticity:

Romney has been faulted for lacking "authenticity," but this is probably unfair. He is--authentically--a cool technocrat, a management consultant at heart. But a leader, as opposed to a manager, needs not just analytical skills but also intuition and emotion, not just information but also conviction. He needs to be able to consult his gut as well as the data when deciding how to proceed.

Romney, in the end, failed to inspire. By contrast, Barack Obama is nothing but inspiring--so inspiring that it is becoming deeply creepy.

He goes on to cite some on the left who are contributing to, and also some who are increasingly uncomfortable with the growing cult of personality surrounding Obama...and then asks:

What are we to make of Obama himself in the midst of all this adulation? A cynic would say that he is a manipulator if not a demagogue, exploiting the gullible to further his own ambitions. A more charitable view is that his intentions are all to the good, that he has simply figured out how to tap into a genuine desire for inspiration in politics, and that if elected he will use his political powers to do good for the country.

Each view seems plausible, but which is correct? Does anyone know Barack Obama well enough to say? And if not, isn't he the candidate who has a problem with authenticity?

Well, he has to talk about policy specifics eventually, (doesn't he?) and the average voter will then see what types of change they will be asked to believe in. With the exception of his version of a government run health care plan being a bit less heavy-handed than the Clinton model, his positions place him well to the left of any other candidate still in the race for the presidency. His foreign policy experience is nil, and it shows in his pronouncements and promises about Iran and the Middle East. I'm not looking for inspiration from my president. I'm looking for competence.

February 5, 2008

Recommended 2/5

Is Obama the latest empty vessel for the "politics of meaning"? Fred Siegel at City Journal; Bizarre Bedfellows for Barack. See also James Kirchick at contentions on the Dianafication of Obama.

Claudia Rosett reports on what passes for financial disclosure by United Nations officials. Try to keep a straight face.

The ninth and last of Jay Nordlinger's dispatches from the World Economic Forum in Davos, with links to the first eight.

Deeds...not words. Terry Eastland suggests that if Obama wishes to transcend race, a good start would be to call for an end to racial preferences.

If you missed Michael Totten's latest from Iraq....don't.

There are lots of people who supported the Iraq campaign in 2003 who are now, shall we say... less than honest about it. But not all of them left an Internet trail to prove it like Joe Klein did. Peter Wehner at NRO.

And Victor Davis Hanson gets more in depth on the same issue raised by Joe Klein. Was Iraq the worst foreign policy mistake in U.S. history?

Simmons On The Rocks

Now that the Patriots have lost the Super Bowl, I can go back to reading Bill Simmons' column. Since the heartbreak of the ALCS, and the start of the Patriots' remarkable run, and the Celtics fast start, I have steered clear of what was no doubt some quality writing by the Sports Guy, who is consistently excellent. I just didn't feel like hearing the perspective of a Boston fan for a couple of months, okay?

So now that his football season has ended much like my baseball season did, it's appropriate for me to read his stuff again. Especially this column. You'll want to read it all, but here's one of the eight things he'll remember forever about Super Bowl XLII:

4. For the rest of eternity, I will never understand why the Patriots -- a team that broke all kinds of offensive records by attacking teams with an aggressive, run-and-shoot offense that thrived on audibles, checks and the intelligence of the quarterback and his receivers -- became passive in the single biggest game of the season. It's one thing to change styles because it's 20 degrees and windy outside and you're worried about throwing the ball. But indoors? Only on the last drive did the Patriots look like the Patriots. I will never understand what took so long. Ever. I will never understand it. I wasn't even that depressed after the game, just confused. What happened to the remarkable offensive juggernaut from the first three months of the season? Where did their arrogance go? What happened to their swagger? Did the never-ending attention and nonstop pressure eventually get to them? For most of Sunday's game, it seemed the Patriots were playing not to lose. And maybe they were.

I will say this: Even though Friday's column will probably earn the No. 1 spot on the "Columns I Wish Weren't In My Archives" list before everything's said and done, Super Bowl XLII inadvertently proved my point. To finish 19-0, you really need a perfect storm of things to fall your way -- not just off the field when you're building the team, but for 19 straight games over the span of five months, and on top of that, the pressure builds every week because of the streak, so it's inevitable you'll wear down in the final two months. I don't think we'll ever see a 19-0 team. If this particular Patriots team couldn't pull it off, nobody's doing it.

Here's that Friday column Simmons refers to, in which he predicts a 42-17 Pats win. Oh well.

I didn't understand why Belichick passed on a 50-yard field goal attempt, at a time when it would have given him a seven point lead. It's not like Gostkowski didn't have enough leg. And he was indoors with no wind factor to speak of. Maybe Bill was guilty of a little overconfidence in both his offense and his defense and their ability to "finish", just as they had so many times this season.

On a related note, I heard Bernie Kosar being interviewed on a local sports talk station this afternoon. He was offering his analysis of yesterday's Super Bowl, and in that context he was relating a story about a meeting in 1998 when the new expansion Cleveland Browns were being formed. This was before their first draft, and before a coach was selected, and Bernie was being consulted by new owner Al Lerner, team president Carmen Policy and the rest of the management inner circle on various matters. The team was trying to reach out to former players with an eye toward the public relations benefits that having guys like Bernie and Jim Brown around would bring to the franchise.

Kosar recalled that Carmen Policy asked him for his ideas on who would be a good coach for the new Browns, and Bernie responded by saying (paraphrasing here) "you might think I'm crazy or joking here, but I think the right guy for the job would be Bill Belichick." Asked by the interviewer how that suggestion was taken, Bernie recalled, "Carmen Policy laughed in my face, and I was never taken seriously again...I was laughed right out of the inner circle." He went on to say that he also had opposed the selection of Tim Couch in the 1999 draft, recommending instead that the team trade down and take either Donovan McNabb or Dante Culpepper with the first round pick. Those two instances of candor by Kosar got him pretty much run back out of town by Browns management.

What is both remarkable about this story, and telling about Kosar's character then and now, is that Belichick had been largely responsible for ending Kosar's career in Cleveland, not only by benching him in '93 in favor of Mike Tomczak, and later Vinnie Testaverde, but by simultaneously trashing his ability to the press and the fans with the now infamous quote about his "diminishing skills." There were well publicized rumors during Kosar's last season with the team that he and Belichick had engaged in what was at least a shouting match, and at worst a fistfight in the stadium tunnel leading to the Browns locker room after a game. The story was never fully fleshed out in the media at the time, but the open conflict between Kosar and Belichick was a key to the hatred, and I do mean hatred, toward Belichick by Browns fans in general. Kosar was their hometown hero...the guy who said he wanted to play in Cleveland...at a time when star quality players who said those things were in short supply.

All that bad blood of course is the reason that Policy laughed in Bernie's face when he suggested that the team re-hire Belichick three years after Art Modell had fired him before he ever got a chance to coach a game in Baltimore as a Raven. There's just no way they could have considered Belichick for the new franchise given his history with the media and the fans in Cleveland. But the point is that the very personal ugliness that had transpired between them didn't stop Bernie from recommending him to the new owner, because he really believed he was the best coach available. Just because they took a couple swings at each other didn't mean Bernie had no respect for the coach's ability. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

A couple more things about Belichick, while I'm on the subject. I was never as down on the guy while he was here as most Browns fans and ticket holders were. He had inherited a horrible team from Bud Carson, one that was probably not as good as its 3-13 record sounded. Starting in 1991 Belichick went 6-10, 7-9, 7-9, and in 1994 he went 11-5 and won a playoff game over New England before losing to the Steelers. His teams were never blown out of games, always overachieving with the talent they had. I loved the fact that he used a lot of trick plays, which always worked, because they had clearly been drilled to perfection. It was also obvious that even back then he was a players coach. Almost to a man the players raved about him, and seemed to like playing for him.

But Belichick had come from New York, where he worked under Bill Parcells, a man who had a certain contempt for the media, and as a consequence Belichick arrived in Cleveland with a defensive, scornful posture toward the press, which was the only reflection that the fans were exposed to. The Belichick we saw after the game Sunday...the hangdog, mumbling, monosyllabic, dismissive jerk...was the Belichick we saw every day in Cleveland for five years. The "I'd rather be anywhere but here talking to you ignorant bozos" Belichick was the only Belichick we ever saw here.

Since that time, I have seen him lighten up a little bit and act borderline human, now that he has a couple of rings and the approval of at least some of the media people he held in such contempt earlier in his career. But there he was on Sunday after a disappointing loss, going back to being the mumbler. I would like to think he had changed over the years, but...

"I can only go by what I see."

February 3, 2008

Rules Changed on Clintons

It's happening already, and they're not even President yet. I'm talking about scandal overload. The sleaze factor with the Clintons in 2008 is reminiscent of the 90's, but the rules of the game have changed this time, in at least two important ways.

I have speculated before that if the mature blogosphere that exists today had been around a decade ago, the Clinton presidency would not have survived. Today, influential blogs (as opposed to this one) can prompt Old Media into covering stories they used to downplay or ignore. Second, from 1992 to 2000, Old Media was 95% in the Clintons' corner (I'm excepting people like Michael Kelly and William Safire.) This time there's another horse in the race, and Obama is today's media darling.

Hence the treatment by the New York Times of how Bill Clinton helped Canadian mining mogul Frank Giustra land a lucrative uranium contract, by accompanying him to a meeting with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Afterwards, the extremely grateful businessman was moved to donate $31 million to Clinton's private foundation. The deal is doubly unseemly, for as the Times says:

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Then there's the matter of the $31 million donation (with up to $100 million more to come) and the unavoidable perception of influence-buying with potentially the most powerful couple in the world. It's no surprise that a statement from the Clinton camp has been released about this remarkable coincidence, in Clintonese of course:

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of “any particular efforts” and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an “observer only” and there was “no discussion” of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton.

Right. Mr. Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan wanted the prestige of Bill Clinton's support for his bid to head an organization to monitor elections and support democracy, (with Putin and Kahmeini as co-chairs perhaps?) and was not supposed to make anything of the fact that Mr. Giustra just happened to be in the former President's traveling party. Got it.

Investors Business Daily's editorial calls the $31 million donation to Clinton "filthy lucre", and it's not hard to see the potential for abuse of this and other foundation funds as an end run around campaign finance laws. In 1996 it was Asian bagmen walking into the White House with cash. Now that Bill's a rock star, the world is lining up to throw money his way.

It's the tip of a larger problem with Clinton and his global foundation that was launched in 1997 to "make a difference."

Besides ending global warming and doling out AIDS medicine, it appears to have another purpose — as a vehicle for extending Clinton's global power reach. The foundation's potential to draw "thank you" donations for helpful acts like showing up in Almaty is just one part of it. It could go even further than that.

Another Clinton pal, Denise Rich, donated $450,000 to Clinton's library around the time that Clinton pardoned her ex-husband, Marc Rich, the fugitive financier on the lam for tax evasion and trading with the enemy. Any connection? Of course not.

It gets downright dangerous when one considers that Clinton's wife is now a front-runner for the Oval Office in 2009. With Hillary in high office, Clinton will be free to do as he pleases with his foundation but his proximity to real power will be far greater.

In a Dec. 20 report, the Times asked whether Clinton's foundation donations could be misused to "circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political influence."

That's worth paying attention to, because Clinton Foundation records show that one of the few projects it has funded is a group called Acorn, which had employees convicted of voter fraud.

Another item included in the IBD article is that foreign governments are also among the recent contributors to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia donated $10 million. I wonder what they'll expect for in return for their generosity? (Maybe a steady stream of apologetics for Palestinian terror and distorted anti-Israeli rhetoric like they get from Jimmy Carter for the millions they pay into the Carter Center is all they want.)

Many who will vote for the first time in 2008 weren't in kindergarten yet when we went through this before. That is no doubt one reason the Clintons are stalling and obfuscating their very best (which is to say, very well) to keep the records of the first Clinton administration, especially the role of HRC, out of the public eye until they'e back!. They are counting on either short memories or no memories of the 90's.

But the Clintons will not be able to forever equate any discussion of their conduct during their first eight years in the White House with "swiftboating", placing it off limits in the campaign. It's fair for Americans to demand an accounting of the former First Lady's role in her husband's presidency as a way to judge her (their) suitability for a re-run? From the WSJ today:

Mrs. Clinton is running for the highest office in the land, and voters have a right to expect that both she and her husband release everything possible about her record, subject to national security and the privacy concerns of third parties. The Clinton White House records may well contain information that would give voters insight into both her political philosophy and character.

They could relate to her role (if any) in such scandals as Travelgate and the Marc Rich pardon, plus policy disputes over health care, welfare reform, and Social Security. The gadfly litigation outfit, Judicial Watch, has been filing FOIA requests and recently pried out a few documents related to Mrs. Clinton's 1993 health-care task force.

One memo, from a participant with the initials "P.S.," reads: "I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy . . . Is the public really ready for this? . . . none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all . . ." This is all relevant today given that health care is again her signature domestic policy.

Yes the ground rules have changed a bit for the Clintons in 2008. There's a new golden boy in view for the Left, and so their media shield is gone. Hillary might manage to overcome the Obama wave. But in order to benefit from the blessing of having Bill Clinton on her side, she also has to deal with his curse. And we could be only a couple days away from knowing how that plays out.


November, 2004 -Wizblog - Musing on Hillary '08

February 2, 2008

Good Golly

Some of the artists whose records were found in John Lennon's jukebox are interviewed, with their music as accompaniment, in a video look back to the birth of rock and roll. Includes tape of audio interview with Lennon. Nice.

February 1, 2008

Europe's Obamania

On the downside of being the solitary superpower is the fact that people in other countries think they should have a vote in your elections. At Brussels Journal, Soeren Kern has a roundup of European elite media opinion on the U.S. presidential campaign:

Obamania: What Europeans Are Saying About American Democracy

The outcome of the US presidential election will affect the lives of millions of people around the world. So it’s probably not surprising that many Europeans are resentful that only Americans will have a say in it. European media are saturated with election coverage that is heavily biased in favor of the Democrats. And, as in past elections, European elites are also demanding the right to help choose the next occupant of the White House. What follows is a brief survey of what some Europeans are saying about the American way of democracy.

An editorial in the Brussels-based, center-right De Standaard articulates a view shared by many Europeans: “American presidential elections are not ‘home affairs’. American decisions have repercussions all over the globe…. Hence, the world should be given the right to vote.”


What European elites really seem to want is the right to “help” Americans choose the “correct” candidate. And if newspaper headlines are any indication, that person is, overwhelmingly, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Indeed, across the continent, European elites are infatuated with Obama, who is now a cult figure.

JVL on McCain

What attention I have given to the presidential campaign so far has been mostly on the Democratic side, because frankly, it's been more interesting than the GOP race. If John McCain becomes the Republican nominee, we'll necessarily see a gradual demonization of him by the left, but it will be hard for them to top the one being administered now by conservatives. In an interview with FPM, Jonathan V. Last remarks on the phenomenon:

FP: Why do you think McCain is so deeply disliked by a lot of movement conservatives?

Last: Hard to say, really. I mean, if you take the complaints of talk radio titans and bloggers at face value, they despise McCain because he's for comprehensive immigration reform, the restriction of free speech via campaign-finance reform, a Senate compromise which put John Roberts and Sam Alito on the SCOTUS, and because he voted against the Bush tax cuts. (There are other complaints, but those are the ones you hear most frequently.)

All of those things are true, of course, but you could say the same of George W. Bush: He was for comprehensive immigration reform, he signed McCain-Feingold into law, he was going to put Harriet Miers on the court instead of Sam Alito, and he put the federal government on steroids with his prescription-drug benefit and No Child Left Behind plans. I don't hear too many movement conservatives railing, day after day, hour after hour, against President Bush.

So there has to be some other component to the McCain antipathy. I suspect that, like many things in politics, it's personal which makes it, by definition, beyond rationality. Not that there's anything wrong with that. None of us are purely rational beings and our impulses often govern preference, even--especially--in politics.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure there's any real profit to be found trying to psychoanalyze the anti-McCain conservatives. They exist, they're part of a very real feeling. But only time will tell how widespread that feeling really is among voters and whether or not some of those people will come back to the Republican fold if McCain is the nominee.

UPDATE 2/1: At least Scrappleface is having fun with it.